Promoting STEM skills and economic development through radio astronomy

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is the world’s largest radio telescope. It is hosted by South Africa in collaboration with eight African partners and Australia. The Development for Africa through Radio Astronomy (DARA) project is using SKA as a catalyst to promote STEM education and economic development in the region.

DARA is fundamentally a capacity building project that has forged significant new north-south and south-south partnerships. The six UK universities in DARA are building collaborative relationships with the African institutes through the training programme, and students have both UK and South African co-supervisors which is strengthening those links.

To date each African country has had up to 40 basic trainees and up to five people undergoing advanced postgraduate training. Annual DARA network meetings are helping to develop new pan-African partnerships both among the trainees and the partner institutes. This is establishing an African radio astronomy community and facilitating new ways to utilise their skills. Throughout the programme, the trainees are exposed to the opportunities to use their new skills to create jobs and wealth with support from experienced entrepreneurs from DARA's industrial partners.

Victor Mpundu from Zambia who took part in the DARA training programme has graduated as an Environmental Engineer. As well as working in this capacity for large companies he has started a small consulting firm with some of his university classmates. The DARA experience inspired Victor to try and expand the services that his small business can offer by utilising remote sensing data from satellites.

"It is because of the knowledge that I acquired through the DARA training program that barely a few months after I completed the training I got a job. The DARA program introduced me to Agri Big Data which can help in decision making in agriculture and increase Zambia's agricultural productivity. Agri Big Data is an exciting program one which I believe holds the answer to agricultural success for the developing countries of the world especially in Africa"

Victor Mpundu, DARA participant and environmental engineer

An infographic produced by Leeds University visualises the impact the DARA programme has had so far:

This content is part of a new series exploring common themes and impact across the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund. Both funds are managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and delivered by a range of UK and international partners.Find out more about Newton Fund and GCRF capacity development.

SDG goals icons - Partnerships for the goals